Niger: War against bandits goes spiritual

Anthony Njoku

Fade up by incessant attacks and raids on their communities by bandits, the people of Niger State have decided to forsake the option of looking up to the military, police and other security agencies for rescue.

Therefore, the affected communities have resorted to bringing in spiritualists who they believe would succeed in sending the bandits on their heels.

In the past four months, communities in Shiroro, Munya and Rafi local government areas have suffered attacks from bandits who operated freely and without restraints almost on a daily basis. More than 200,000 people have been displaced with hundreds of others dead or abducted by the bandits.

Most of the people in the affected communities have had to flee their communities to other lands for safety, causing internally displaced persons (IDP) camps to spring up across the state.

There were lots of calls from the state government and legislators to the federal government for high-level military intervention, which resulted in President Muhammadu Buhari declaring emergencies in the affected communities. That, however, did not stop the operations of bandits.

The state government on several occasions ordered the deployment of land and air surveillance to fish and flush out the bandits terrorizing the communities. And when that did little to solve the problem, the governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, who admitted being helpless, called on the people to resort to prayers.

The 70-year-old spiritualist, whose identity remains hidden, is said to have come from a town in the border between Niger and Kwara states. She was said to have been invited to Zuguruma community in Mashegu Local Government Area of the state to help protect them from bandits.

The mystery woman, who was said to have had the antecedent of defending communities from external aggression with the involvement of local hunters, was said to have killed about 40 bandits in her first outing in the community.

The priestess, who reportedly arrived in Rafi combat-ready, was said to have been disappointed when she realised that all the bandits had fled from the vicinity.

According to a close source, the priestess told the villagers that the bandits had been pre-informed about her visit, which was why they fled. She then dared the bandits to return to the village to attack it.

It was also gathered that the Chairman of Rafi Local Government Council had brought in a private security outfit from Bauchi State named Aljan Security Network to further help in dealing with the bandits.

According to report, the security outfit be wore by the deployed men, close to 100 with some vigilante members joining them to smoke out the bandits in the villages and forests.

The Public Relations Officer of the state’s police command, ASP Wasiu Abiodun, said the command was not aware of it because the divisional office where the incident was said to have taken place had not sent any report to that effect.

“The divisional office is not aware of any of such incident. No report has been reported to the divisional office. We are not aware of it,” He added.

Niger indigenes have continued to beckon to the female spiritualist to come to their aid and flush out the bandits. But the question on everyone’s lips is: where is the woman? Who really is she? What are her antecedents? What could have prompted her to help communities in distress?

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